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Cavalier Challenge Week 2: Utah Jazz Frontcourt

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

We’re into the 2nd week of NBA basketball now and the Cleveland Cavaliers will play their 3rd, 4th, and 5th games, of the season, all on the road, against the Portland Trailblazers, the Utah Jazz, and the Denver Nuggets. Probably the toughest matchup of the week will be against the Jazz however, as the Cavs enter a battle vs. the Utah’s solid up-and-coming frontcourt.

{adinserter 2}There’s no doubt the Cavs have loads of offensive talent, but the lack of an interior defensive presence is worrisome for a team that many consider very likely to compete for a championship in June. This week, they’ll be going up against the Jazz starting frontcourt of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, as well as backup Trevor Booker.

These players haven’t made much noise in the NBA since their respective arrivals, but this year is likely going to be a break out year for the starters. With new coach Quin Snyder, Utah has fed the ball to Derrick Favors in the post, and he’s responded well, averaging 21.7 points, 9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks in the first 3 games of the young season. HE put up a dud against the Clippers Monday night with 6 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist, but that can mostly be attributed to the Clippers concrete interior defense. Favors looks like a man on a mission so far, and Coach Snyder reportedly wants a lot of the offense to run through Favors on the low block, so he should see his usage rate continuously increase as the season progresses. The Cavs should be careful deciding whether or when they want to double-team Favors, as the Jazz will have lurking for open corner and win 3-point shots. Gordon Hayward, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Dante Exum, and Rodney Hood can all hit the open shot.

Favors will make a tough matchup for Kevin Love as Love will need often times need the team defense to get the ball out of Favors’ hands. As long as he is kept out of the paint and gets the ball farther than where he’d like to on the low block, the Cavs will be in good shape defensively to render him less effective. Love will likewise be a tough matchup for Derrick as he can stretch the floor all the way to the 3-point line, therefore taking Favors out of the paint and opening up driving lanes for his Cavalier mates to penetrate the Jazz defense. With advantages and disadvantages on both ends of the floor, the Cavaliers need to exploit Utah from the opening tip to gain the early advantage.

Enes Kanter is a work in progress for the Jazz, as they are still trying to find the most suitable and effective lineup he could be used in. He’s an unconventional center who is all over the place and can really do some of the things that our very own Anderson Varejao does. Over this past offseason, he’s added a 3 point shot to his repertoire, which can work to the Cavaliers’ advantage if he becomes a little trigger-happy from downtown. Not really known for his defense, Kanter will likely work on the opposite side of Favors, mixing his game up with mid-range jumpers, running hook-shots, and the occasional 3 point shot. Varejao should not have a problem figuring out Kanter’s tendencies and neutralizing them if he can force more outside shots than shots in the paint. Andy, who’ll likely be all over the floor like he usually is, will make Kanter work on both offense and defense, as Varejao likes to float around on offense, setting screens both on and off ball as well as randomly diving to the basket.

A new offseason addition for the Jazz is power forward, and now a stretch 4, Trevor Booker. After a couple of productive years in Washington, Booker has moved on to Utah where he can back up both Kanter and Favors. Booker is a scrappy player who’s always been a solid rebounder and inside presence to score. Booker also seems to have improved his 3-point shooting in the offseason. After making just one 3-pointer in his previous 4 seasons, Trevor has already hit 5 triples in the 2014-15 season, and is hitting them with efficiency. A solid backup, he’ll likely be countered with Tristan Thompson off the Cavalier bench, who will be forced to the perimeter at times to guard Booker on the high posts.

All in all, the Cavaliers have a test ahead of them come Wednesday, but if you enjoy frontcourt NBA matchups, then this game is a must-watch. Offensively, our trio of Love, Varejao, and Thompson is more talented than the Jazz trio of Favors, Kanter, and Booker, but the greatest impacts will be made defensively.

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